In most countries I have been to, I was allowed to drive with my german driver's license if my stay was below X days (often 90). Vice versa, many people coming to germany and other countries seem to be allowed to drive with their license.

Why is this allowed?

I asked myself this, because I see some obvious CONs here:

I know the obvious reason is that you just cannot expect people that come for 3 days to obtain a local driver's license. But then, maybe the correct solution would be to not allow these people to drive at all.

During my theory test, I had to remember all road signs and a lot more details (how far from a crosswalk are you allowed to park, how do you have to secure payload that is longer than your car, and so on). If I would have failed in three questions, I would not have gotten my license. In contrast, foreigners cannot know these rules, as they differ by country. Thus, they do not seem to have the theoretical knowledge required to drive a car here. One can now of course argue, that these details don't matter anyway in day-to-day traffic, and they are probably right. But if they don't matter, then why should I know them during the test after all?

Another example: Driving on the right versus driving on the left. I was totally allowed to drive a car in Australia. Yet, I was close to triggering an accident, as I was just not used to driving on the left and having to leave a highway on the left. I was a high risk for everyone around me. Yet, the authorities don't seem to care about this.

Of course, the obvious PRO argument is:

It just makes things easier for tourists.

Why are these problems not a concern for the authorities?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a rant, not a real question. – JonathanReez Feb 8 '17 at 12:12
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    @JonathanReez: This is not a rant. I am not angry about this, I am rather quite happy that it is like that, as I travel and drive a lot. I am just asking why this is the case, as it just seem illogical to me. I am giving examples to show where the problems with the current approach lie and why the question is valid. I am really interested why this question is never even brought up. It seems to be totally obvious to all authorities, while I think it is not obvious at all. – gexicide Feb 8 '17 at 15:06

Because governments of most of the world's countries have signed the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic or the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. The conventions also unified most of the traffic laws, so tourists can drive anywhere without thinking too much about local regulations.

If you believe yourself to be incompetent to drive abroad, then don't. There are plenty of alternatives: public transport, taxis, Uber, car-sharing, walking, cycling, etc.


Most written driving license tests are a joke, they ask you to regurgitate facts that you will never use again. What counts is the driving test, can you safely operate the car.

Most foreign governments look at your license as proof that you can safely operate the car, NOT that you know how far you have to park from a crosswalk. Driving safely is similar in most parts of the world, but it is up to you, the traveler, to make yourself aware of any peculiarities of the law where you plan to rent and drive a car.

  • Interesting. But then, if the test is a joke, why do we have it in the first place? And if having a driver's license already shows that I can safely operate a car, then why do I need to obtain a local license if I stay longer in the country. Either the license shows I drive safely or it doesn't. Right now, it seems to show that I can drive safely for 90 days and afterwards become a danger. – gexicide Feb 8 '17 at 15:08
  • @gexicide because governments love extra bureaucracy – JonathanReez Feb 8 '17 at 15:23
  • @gexicide there you have the main point, why is after the 90 or whatever number of days your driving license not acceptable anymore. To me that has always been strange. – Willeke Feb 8 '17 at 21:15
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    Most governments require you to have a local license after staying a certain length of time, because they consider you to be residing in their jurisdiction if you stay longer than that. And local laws all over the world require residents to have a local DL. Your DL links to your driving record, so getting a new local license often starts you with a clean slate (I am sure there is some EU rules abut sharing but I am talking globally). And DLs serve as IDs in many situations. – user13044 Feb 9 '17 at 1:16

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